20 – Nosferatu (1922) Dir. FW Murnau
Nosferatu is an absolute icon of movie, pop culture and horror fandoms alike, being an inspiration to creators such as Robb Zombie and the onslaught of Dracula filmmakers to come. Max Schreks, now infamous gangly, surreal and terrifying portrayal of Count Orlok is everywhere to be seen by everyone this season! At nearly a century old, it shows, it’s a black and white silent movie but obviously, as time-specific, everything you see is practically special effects, which considering the nigh-on 100 years since release, they managed something of quite a feat. Orlok’s invasive fingers, angled ears, intense eyes and overall revolutionary make-up still manage to freak me out to this day! Despite being a family-friendly movie!
19 – Green Room (2015) Dir. Jeremy Saulner
This movie straddles the line so gingerly between being a straight-up horror and slasher movie. The premise is a young group of punks play a gig to a load of unsuspecting Nazis in an extremely back road venue, miles away from prying ears and helping hands, playing such songs as “Nazi Punks, F*** Off”. You would be right in assuming that the looming Aryans aren’t a huge fan of this and proceed to torture, mangle and mutilate our Anton Yelchin and his group of upstarts. A night of trauma ensues as knives fly, Nazis party and dogs are unleashed, the sheer level of tension this movie manages to captivate is truly something, whether we’re locked in the backroom with the gang or in the fields with an unbeknownst Patrick Stewart.
18 – Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) Dir. Jack Arnold
Scientists are here! They’re determined to find you! As a group of scientists drop anchor in a swamp for a scientific scramble to recover the remnants of a long lost species begins, he watches. Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning manage to kick-start an entire genre of monster movies in a big way with their contribution of the creature, an incredible practical suit, ready to be thrown into the pond with no detriment. The intricacies and robust technics of the creature are highlights of what some still struggle to achieve with budgets ten times the necessity and throwing the heart of King Kong, woman and beast paramour manages to ground the creature in both an empathetic and human way.
17 – Insidious (2010) Dir. James Wan
The similarities to movies prior and what inspired this outing aren’t subtle, James Wan wore them directly on his sleeve when he and Leigh Whannell came together to script a homage of the 30 years prior. Taking obvious stylings from Spielberg’s Poltergeist, James Wan manages to create an arguably more terrifying piece of cinema that jump-started a franchise. With the help of Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, the story conveyed is that the focal families son is prone to “astral drifting”, a paranormal feat where his consciousness leaves his body and roams about in another plane of reality, which on paper sounds fun, yay. However, the reality is that the astral plane is haunted and when the ghoulishly stylised spirits in that realm see the son, they’re alerted to an open casket waiting to be housed by a new vengeful conscious. The real highlight of this movie is its originality and determination to take, expand and deviate what you already know about possession horror, a genre flooded with so many copy-pasted movies.
16 – Addams Family (1991) Dir. Barry Sonnenfeld
Although this definitively isn’t a phenomenal movie, based on the pop culture surrounding the title, the many outstandingly macabre performances of Raúl Juliá, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd and Christina Ricci make it absolutely worth a mention. Their characters exist to normalise, trivialise and make light of all the traditional horrors people fear whilst keeping it a breezy and fun children’s movie, which massively remains fun for everyone, even in 2019.
15 – Dog Soldiers (2002) Dir. Neil Marshall
Neil Marshall will actually have two entries feature on this list and I’m sure you’ve probably guessed the second. I genuinely think he had the potential to become one of the greatest horror directors today; with Dog Soldiers he takes a unique premise of a military training day, staples it in an English forest with a load of Northern footie fans the night of the world cup, so they’re already understandably pretty narked prior to being hunted by eight-foot-tall wolf/man hybrids. It’s almost a stretch to call this a horror, it’s endlessly quotable with many genuinely laugh out loud scenes of gratuitous gore and absolutely astounding use of practical special effects for the relatively small budget it had to dispose of.
14 – Friday the 13th (1980) Dir. Sean S. Cunningham
Really? How much need I say about Jason Voorhees, Betsy Palmer or Camp Crystal Lake? If you’re any kind of self- respecting horror aficionado, I wouldn’t have to say much. The original slow, menacing walk, the inevitable charge after your blood. Ari Lehman and Nick Castle are one and the same and make good on filling the hole in horror that requires an unstoppable force to lay waste to a group of youngsters.
I’m sorry I didn’t put this at number 13.
13 – Mandy (2018) Dir. Panos Cosmatos
On paper Panos Cosmatos’ “Mandy” is the most over the top, bat-sh** me(n)tal, non-stop concept. However on screen it achieves the perfect blend of over the top and droll subtly, with many slow-paced scenes marvellously scored by the late Johan Johanssen and the guitarist of dreary, stoner metal band Sun O))). Visually no one is making this movie, a movie like this, or a movie of this calibre. Such a stand out sleeper hit. There is no abundance of strobe effects and ethereal lighting here obviously as the movie is jam-packed with an understated 80’s feel that is both fresh and unrepresented and really hitting that nail on the head is that whatever special effects you see in this movie, they’re all entirely practical. Absolutely do not miss Nick Cage in his instant cult-classic role.
12 – Zombieland (2009) Dir. Ruben Fleischer
Handled tremendously with gifted writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who both later found more status with Deadpool/2 and Life, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson bring this instant cult classic to life, forever quotable, forever funny. Accompanied by fellow Oscar actor Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin we follow them through the immediate “apocalypse” learning how to be a family along with, kind of, how to survive.
11 – Cabin in the Woods (2011) Dir. Drew Goddard/Joss Whedon
The directors/writers of this movie clearly have a complete understanding with the genre and ALL of its tropes as they use it ALL, on purpose. It’s a tongue in cheek, satire of an entire genre, not pulling punches for making fun anywhere and throwing obligatory horror icons as cameos and easter eggs in literally every holding cell they can fit. The premise is in fact ~cabin in the woods. The exact same as Evil Dead, however, the downfall of the group is in the hands of an elite subterranean shadow company trying to appease a Lovecraftian god and that’s the twist, the one thing unique about its plot points but everything makes this movie a must-watch.
10 – Poltergeist (1982) Dir. Tobe Hooper
Steven Spielberg’s only true outing into complete horror territory maybe sticks like that because he nailed it on his first story, with an ancient burial ground, haunted tree and a medium! With a parental guidance rating, the movie boasts a lot to put the chills up everyone and a story to inspire the genre well into the 21st century, alongside incredible practical special effects and an unforgettable performance from Craig Nelson.
9 – Evil Dead (2013) Dir. Fede Alvarez
Many gawked in fear at the studios’ tenacity to green-light a soft reboot for the beloved cult franchise but with both original trilogy director; Sam Raimi and trilogy star; Bruce Campbell producing those doubts should’ve been squashed. Post movie, we had been treated to possibly the best reboot possible and one of the goriest movies I think I have ever seen. There’s no single department of this movie that fails to exceed all expectations, especially the props and, again, I’m going to gush about practical special effects – the penultimate scene in the boggy, bloody yard of the cabin where the movies’ protagonist endures literally tearing her crushed hand off at the wrist and chainsawing the possessed in half down the head is one of my all time cinema highlights.
8 – Hellraiser (1987) Dir. Clive Barker
Clive Barker may well be one of the most influential, consistent writers when it comes to world and lore building, he managed to flesh out Pandora’s Box with an intricate hierarchy of cenobites (a council of bizarrely mutilated masochists) ready and willing to punish those who require it. Pinhead, again, another huge icon of the genre and the main cenobite, portrayed by the infamous Doug Bradley, another genre pioneering, suit-clad actor on the same level as Nick Castle, Bolaji Badejo and Ari Lehman.
7 – The Descent (2005) Dir. Neil Marshall
Another unique pedestal for the director, this time around he tackles the darkness, claustrophobia, loss and the typical blind-cave dwelling sub-humans with a taste for blood. Set in an Appalachian cave district, a group of women go exploring, unbeknownst to them in an unregistered cave system with no immediate escape. Before not long, caves start collapsing, people start screaming and the subterranean start waking, hungry for the mostly European girls. The way he manages to build tension with the darkness and silence is incredible and it’s no chore for the movie to hang you on the edge of its seat for the entirety. It’s a massive shame that with the recent Hellboy reboot being helmed by Marshall, we’re unlikely to see an imminent return to the genre.
6 – A Quiet Place (2018) Dir. John Krasinski
John Krasinski shows and displays masterful use of music (assisted by the extremely talented composer, Marco Beltrami, who also scored 2017’s Logan) to accompany a silent ambience of complete tension and unknown. Considering this is the director’s debut movie, he managed to smash every single expectation delivered, he managed to make me feel empathetic to the family and their endurance and largely very emotional at the penultimate scene where the father sacrifices himself. Both Krasinski and Emily Blunt put on an incredible performance as not only an on screen couple but a real life couple, working together behind the scenes to make this movie what it was.
5 – Halloween (2018) Dir. David Gordon Green
This is absolutely how to do a re-sequel (that’s what I’m calling them. A sequel which intersects and negates part of the original structure, in this case, it removes 8 Halloween movies). John Carpenter comes back for the score accompanied by his son Cody to add some new interesting synth sections and inject them into the original tracks, it’s a fantastic revamping of a much-beloved score and in my opinion the most iconic score to ever feature in a movie. Jamie Lee Curtis returns alongside Nick Castle (assisted by James Jude Courtney for some of the most physically intense scenes) playing the infamous “Shape” that’s carved its way into pop culture.
4 – Lost Boys (1987) Dir. Joel Schumacher
Another cult classic and my favourite vampire movie of all time, Corey Feldman and Kiefer Sutherland acting at a level neither have surpassed to this day. Gloriously tongue in cheek, this movie captures the mid point of integrating into a new society and meeting new people, just turns out some are vampires and some are frog brothers. There’s that infamous saxophone guy, Chinese noodle worms, flying and even a Neverland-esque den where the little gang of bloodsuckers like to hang out. An immensely fun movie full of gore, 80’s attitude and hair metal.
3 – An American Werewolf in London (1981) Dir. John Landis
The ultimate werewolf movie, if when you hear ‘Bad Moon Rising’ you don’t think, “what is the best werewolf transformation scene”, what do you think of? The practical special effects on both Jack and the wolf are phenomenal especially for the early 80’s, the level of practicality is incredible. The humour tones mainly on British satire and ignorance, which is carried mainly with accents and slang, contrasted with David’s tame American accent, it just really pops.
2 – The Thing (1982) Dir. John Carpenter
The most efficient use of practical special effects to date, helmed by this signature director still massively hold up in this movie. The Thing blends everything it takes an inspiration from, an omega coalition of sci-fi, claustrophobia, truly fantastic practical effects and a wholly original concept, still largely un-shadowed by anything in the genre.
1 – Alien (1979) Dir. Ridley Scott
Ridley Scott sits profoundly upon a pedestal of master craft perfectionism. Alien captures true tension and benign fear stronger than any movie released since, the atmosphere the movie collects is genuine horror accompanied by a stellar avant-garde score created by Jerry Goldsmith, with its visceral high notes paving the way through to timeless sci-fi bravados. An incredible library of practical effects is on display here from the lovingly crafted sets, the chest-burster props and the immensely gorgeous xenomorph suit, whose design was largely conceptualized by the late HR Giger. The movie is absolutely no slouch visually and for that matter, in any department, it still stands tall. As tall as Belaji Badejo, may he rest in peace.
Words by Jack Bardwell